Monday 31 March 2008

Bass fly fishing Ireland - Part 1- General Fly Choice

Choosing Flies

What fly should I choose for saltwater fly-fishing in Ireland? Its not and easy question to answer in one sentence, and I guess its probably not possible. Saltwater fly selection can be as simple or as complex as you make it. You have so many choices and so much information that it can often become terribly confusing. You can buy flies at tackle shops, on the Internet, or indeed learn to tie your own often to no particular avail.

I am asked all the time what the best fly to fish with, when making fly selction choices bear in mind the species you are pursuing. Saltwater fly patterns are relatively few in number in comparison to the huge number of flies used in freshwater so that makes things a little simpler. Saltwater flies are somewhat restricted in their scope - mainly baitfish and crustacean patterns, yes there are smaller bugs like slaters and hoppers and things so ‘matching the hatch’ is an option for the creative tier. The obvious answer is ‘.... Something that looks like a small fish!’, but we all know its not that simple and there are many factors other than a small ‘fishy’ looking fly that also need to be examined before making the decision to tie on a fly. Size, type, colour, and target species - when and what do I choose?

I have caught several species on one pattern, I have caught bass on bonefish patterns, I have caught mullet on seatrout patterns, and I have caught flounders on rainbow patterns! What does this tell us about saltwater flies, or indeed about saltwater fish? Given the predatory instinct of the fish and the tactics of the careful and strategic angler the WHAT type of fly becomes less important (but not entirely so) and rather the HOW the WHEN and the WHERE becomes much more relevant and important.

So the following are flies I would recommend for the beginner in Irish saltwater fly-fishing

Deceivers – White and white and chartreuse, olive and brown and tan – size 2 – 2/0

Clousers – White and white and blue, pink and white and olive size 2 – 2/0

Others – Charlies in tan and brown, Fredes, Minkies, Gotchas in black and white and pink and white, oh and some surface Poppers/Gliders/ Gurglers.

Next Month ()- the instinct of the decision

Salt Water Lure Fishing - Part 1 of 21 - Surface Lure Fishing I

Of all the types of fishing an angler can experience in Ireland surface lure or ‘topwater’ lure fishing is without a doubt one of the most exciting, enjoyable, addictive and may I say simple techniques for catching predatory fish and especially bass.

It is certain that if you are seeking the ultimate bass fishing experience, then surface lure (or fly)fishing is the way to go - the awesome visual action of fish strikes and attacks that happen very regularly are unforgettable. The added visual appeal and response that comes with surface lure fishing is very powerful in terms of angling pleasure. It’s very often that the result of a missed strike when a bass swims away unhooked after that mighty attack and hit is enough to produce a satisfactory experience for the angler – its an adrenaline rush and very addictive so be warned!

Using lures that float on top of the water is what makes surface fishing more of an exciting angling experience than any other style of fishing. Lures that are primarily used are specifically known as ‘topwater’ or ‘surface’ lures. These types of lures are quite simple looking; many are produced in realistic, baitfish type patterns with lifelike appearances and colouring to appeal to fish’s sensory receptors. Most surface lures are hollow-bodied and made from hard durable plastic or wood with a standard tail treble hook, and in some cases, two other treble hooks. Debarbing and reducing the number of hooks will help your fishing and protect the fish and YOU from unnecessary damage.

So what are the tactics for surface lure fishing? Any angler despite their angling experience can attempt and even master the basics of surface lure fishing quite easily. It’s a little bit of work at the beginning, but it’s really worth the effort. The concept is simple, and basically involves being able to fish on the surface of the water. The trick though, is being able to manipulate the way one’s lure acts, floats, swims and reacts on the water’s surface.

What you need to have is a decent ability to coordinate your rod, line retrieve, and the timing of each with specifically hand eye coordination. Surface lure fishing starts with your eyes and ends with your wrists and hands. You must watch the lure (particularly the way it reacts) as your retrieve and fish it. Secondly, using your wrists and retrieving line hand on your reel to control line pull, tug and twitch, and thus create lure action or animation. When the lure is swimming successfully on the water’s surface it is this enticing element that the fish beneath the water is fully drawn to. Techniques for fishing in a surface manner can vary from popping the lure to walking it or twitching it in a lifelike manner across the surface.

All the above cannot be done with out proper line tension and control Without doing this, the way the lure reacts will not appear natural or act in the correct manner for which it was designed. Thus slack line in your cast and retrieve will yield sloppy and non-realistic fishing action. Keeping a ‘realistic’ fishing action as much as possible with your surface lure presentations is crucial, especially since bass react very positively to lifelike lure movement.

Next month () - retrieves for early season lure fishing.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Lure fishing techniques for saltwater - Ireland

During April I will post short daily (if possible) articles here on saltwater lure fishing techniques - this will cover a lot of aspects of surface lure fishing, jerk baits and soft bait presentations to bass and other species in Ireland. I will also cover lots of valuable fishing tips and techniques to help improve your lure fishing......

During the five seasons that i have guided for bass on the south coast of Ireland I have learned a lot of angling information. This information has been learned from or given to me by many mature and vastly experienced anglers who have travelled wide in their destination angling, and particularly those in the saltwater fly and lure fishing arena. Their exploits have brought many of them to places like South America, Japan, Europe, the USA and Africa - and it is this wealth of experience that i can share with you.

This 'experience' covers a wide range of elements ranging from equipment, safety, techniques and observations made over not only the last five years but also how it has been succesfuly applied and adapted to Irish saltwater fly and lure fishing during that time. I have managed to 'track' a lot of anglers opinions in relation to the performance of various items and equipment, and as a lot them travel the world in search of new species and destinations there are a few common factors they all come to demand and expect from the equipment they use. Be it reels, lines, rods or lures - factors like the ones below are a few that are most regularly mentioned

  • constant reliability
  • fishing performance
  • endurance and longevity
  • balance
  • effectivity
As a result of this monitoring I continue to work closely with companies who manufacture and distribute modern lure and fly fishing rods and reels. I want to continue to learn and understand new and emerging techniques and methods and how they might be applicable to my business here in Ireland.

In respect to the postings please dont hesitate to make a comment on any of the topics, in fact contributions would enhance the pages, or indeed if you have any questions or aspects of lure/fly fishing that you might like to discuss here dont hesitate to mail me at and I can personalise your question.

I must add that everyone has an individual preference or experience. These different opinions and experiences that are expressed and discussed here have been condensed over a long period of time with a lot of valuable contributions from many people. They are not biased in any direction and are offered here simply as help or assistance to anglers.

Jim Hendrick

My sixth year of guiding for.....& the C+R photo submission

This will be my sixth year of guiding for bass on the Wexford coast - I have spent the last few days fly fishing for sea trout with some success and during that time I was fondly remembering the summer of 2003. This was the summer when i made my first editorial and it was with Voyages des Peches - one of Europes leading sportfishing magazines. The photograph above was made on the first afternoon of three - both fish hit at the same time on surface lures, an unforgettable experience. Like all the editorials that were to follow and still do, it was a fantastic 3-day succes. We filled 6 pages in the magazine and the stories are still heard in Paris.
The latest article from SEAi is featured in the European magazine Vliegvissen. If you would like to read more editorial please visit my resource page on Here you can see articles from - Fish and Fly, Peche Mouche, Loup et Bar and many more.
I had during the summer of 2003 'field tested' the business with some customers using modern lure fishing techniques,Illex - Lucky craft - Smith - Yamamoto and enjoyed such a high degree of success that I finally decided to take the plunge during that winter, and try guiding as a full time job.
Now six years later I am witnesss to a growing popularity in lure fishing for bass all along the coastlines of south eastern Ireland. Bass fishing for six months of the year on the Wexford coast, five days a week for the past five years, I have seen some spectacular sites, witnessed incredible fish and learned an incredible amount of techniques and methods.
But most of all it continues to give me great pleasure to be Irish and presenting this wonderful country to all my customers both foreign and national and the wonderful fishing we are lucky to have here.
As i move into my sixth year I continue to learn and develop new techniques both in modern lure and fly fishing. This year I will concentrate more on developing flies and techniques for Irish saltwater fly fishing. I am looking forward to the season of 2008 and offer you a chance to enter my C+R photo submission

If you would like to enter
Please submit your favourite photographs of a catch and release fishing scene on fly or lure (made during 2008) to SEAi - the final decision reagrding the winner will be made on September 30th 2008 - and a prize of 100.00 euros of illex tackle can be won. Photos will be posted to the SEAi galleries as they arrive between now and September. 
Good luck and tight lines

Tuesday 25 March 2008

people often ask me.....the reel

People often ask a lot of questions about my fly fishing. The one sure question you can be asked is about your choice in equipment and especially rods and reels. I dont like to make recommendations as such but i do know that what i use has been influenced by time and continued performance. When i am guiding i often use carbon composite fly reels - they are tough, resilient,hard wearing and dont need to much minding, if indeed any.

But when i am fishing by myself the reel I like to use is the Danielsson LW 6 nine. All i can say really is, its ideal reel for use in Irelands saltwater environment.

What Danielsson have to say
A drag system needs to be completely waterproof to be reliable, and must withstand any condition the angler might encounter, including exposure to saltwater, sand or dirt, and extremes of temperature. It also has to be easy to handle and should require almost no maintenance. Danielsson's extreme requirements as to function, materials and manufacture have resulted in exactly such a drag system, completely sealed to the highest industrial standards and impervious to the dirt and water that are the Achilles' heel of other reels.Tomas Danielsson also wanted to maintain the advantages of light weight and a large arbour and the result is the LW series. Almost as light in weight as the Original and FW models, and with an astounding braking ability, the LW is a superior reel for single-handed fly rods that you can trust to get the job done.

Danielsson LW features:

* Waterproof and heat resistant bearing and drag assembly in Hi-End materials.
* Works in wet or dry, cold or warm conditions, through the full range of drag settings.
* Pressure chamber tested: waterproof down to 10 atmospheres.
* Form and friction-stable drag discs withstand temperatures to 2000°C.
* Corrosion resistant, anodized high strength aluminium.
* Other components in stainless steel.
* Large drag knob makes it easy to set correct resistance.
* Min- and max- settings available within 330 degrees of knob travel.
* Optional outgoing/incoming clicker (can be deactivated).
* Easy-to-change spools.
* Large arbour/fast line retrieve.

Monday 17 March 2008

guiding the guide....

So you start the week on a Saturday morning by cleaning, polishing and hoovering the car, checking water and oil and diesel and placing some conversation pieces on the dashboard, a few flies or lures or something to spark a few words that will inevitably generate the first of many debates over the coming days. You get dressed in your best ‘guiding’ gear and of you go to the airport. This is always a strange time for me – mind games are played as you ask yourself ‘What will they look like’? ‘What will they be like to fish with?’ and then as you continue to wait for their arrival one of the party coming through recognises you with a smile that says so many things, and then the week begins. Introductions, hellos, flight ok? Hungry? No, ok, lets go to the car, it’s this way; I’m sorry what was your name again…seven days of intense focus and interaction. Its often that when the week is over I am left with a strange sense of anti-climax as I say goodbye to whom were once strangers but are now friends and close companions. Welcome to the world of the saltwater fishing guide.

It is inevitable that the customer will often not know what to expect when he arrives. He will be quite prepared to ask lots of questions, questions you will have heard before and you will provide answers that are an integral part of the service that you provide. Questions in relation to tides and moon phases, weather conditions, temperatures and various other external influences will help you place the fisherman into a ‘category’. Other types of questions about local politics or the countryside or history will also force you to categorise the angler. Speed of questions, the number of questions, the type of questions, how the question is asked, and the often-animated conversations amongst the group in home languages before the next question follows helps you in forming and managing the customers expectations. And here we come to the greatest challenge of the next seven days – anticipating managing, and providing that expectation to the best of your abilities. Each customer’s expectation is unique and each customer is a fisherman. So when I met Steen Ulnits from Denmark at the airport in August not only had he a unique expectation, not only was he a fisherman, not only was he a fisheries biologist but as well as that he was an international fishing guide. A new challenge lay in front of me – how to successfully guide a fishing guide?

For your information Steen is a fisheries biologist by education from the University of Ã…rhus but is now a full time outdoors writer and photographer. He works for a number of magazines - mostly the Scandinavian fly only magazine "Flugfiske i Norden" where, besides being one of the founders and present co-owner, he is on the editorial staff. He also has his own angling page in "Jyllands-Posten", the largest Danish newspaper with a circulation of some 250.000 during weekends.
Being a fisheries biologist by education (and profession for some years) he has dealt a lot with environmental issues where and when they pertained to fish and water. He also specialises in fly-fishing and travel all over the world, sampling exotic fishing and thus obtaining new material for articles and books. Speaking of which he has written 20 so far - in his own name. Besides that he has translated 7 books into Danish and co-authored another 10 international books. Mmmmmmmmh……

Now here he was in Wexford looking to catch an Irish bass on the fly!

After day two of gentle fishing I felt something was wrong. So what was it? I had made two mistakes. One, I assumed that because of Steen’s vast experience and knowledge that he would know exactly what to do and how to do it, and two, I wasn’t managing his expectations based on my assumptions, and hence he wasn’t catching any fish. Simple really.

The fact was, he was not like any other customer and at the same time he was exactly the same. I had categorised him immediately as an expert who didn’t really need much interaction from me as I assumed he knew how to catch bass on the fly. Steen had had some experience of them in Denmark as they are now increasing their range into the Nordic countries. Or maybe they were already there and people just didn’t fish for them, and anyway he surely didn’t need me to show him how to catch a predator on the fly! However after four sessions Steen hadn’t hit a fish and I needed to put it right very quickly. Of course we had discussed equipment and flies and lines and fishing and tactics in detail but what had we missed?

Steen was using a #8 rod and a #8 integrated floating shooting head with a ten-foot leader and a traditional lefty’s deceiver size 1/0. There was nothing spectacularly wrong there as I suspected. His casting was what I like to refer to as a relaxed style with an equally relaxed retrieve of a slow strip and stop. The thing was, as I stood and watched him on the last session of day two he was continuously casting and retrieving to the same place and retrieving at the same pace with the same fly. Nothing changed in his almost robotic and yet effective technique. I say effective in as much as the fly was presented correctly, was fished correctly but it was monotonous, too monotonous almost without confidence and with a degree of uncertainty. He needed to change and so did I.

On the third session I went into super guide mode. I didn’t care if he was a ‘world-class’ expert; from now on he was been treated as if he was a novice saltwater fly fisherman. I have as a preference started to use Varivas tapered leaders so I suggested to Steen that he do likewise. Our fly choice was my default clouser minnows in white and white and chartreuse, coupled to the same colours in a bucktail deceiver pattern that had proven successful all spring and summer long. I ensured he had sufficient supply of both types.

This session was an evening one and as the wind was north northwesterly the sky was prone to dramatic light and colour changes as had been the case for many days. Temperatures were down slightly and water clarity was incredible. However over the last few evenings I had noticed baitfish appearing in shoals along the coast often chased by hunting mackerel. As yet they remained out of reach of our flies. The venue was an open beach with some rocky outcrops. Recently I had picked up fish cruising along the outcrops as they hunted with the rise of the tide. Takes were fierce and often as not the fish were deep hooked so I also removed the barbs from the flies we were using.

So I positioned Steen along one of the outcrops and explained in detail some of the observations I had made over the past few weeks. I drew in the sand some of my ‘theories’ not really knowing whether they were true or not but at this stage I wanted him to have a very positive attitude and feeling of confidence. So we began to fish again – fan casting over the outcrop and…. nothing happened. I moved up the beach to explore the next set, took a lazy cast and hit a small fish of about two pounds; whilst I was landing him I noticed another bigger fish hunting through the channels of the outcrop. I walked back down the beach and spoke to Steen telling him of the fish I caught and of the possibility of him catching the one I had also seen. We attached a grey and white bucktail deceiver pattern and Steen made his first casts in the direction of the fish. He stripped the fly and bang – was on, at last!

During the evening as the light continued to amaze us and the evening sun began to set we were treated to more fish. Mackerel chased sprats onto the beach and I’m sure some bass chased the mackerel too. We changed our rods to #4’s and simple silver patterns and had some real fun. Just before the light disappeared Steen had another bass on the deceiver.
It happens a lot like this. Sometimes it’s a little mysterious. I believe you can make things happen in fishing simply by talking and communicating to someone that they are doing fine and by making them feel more confident suddenly they catch fish. I felt I didn’t need to make Steen feel confident, I assumed he was more than capable and I’m sure he was. However, that extra ingredient, that last piece of the jigsaw was missing – you can never assume anything in fishing least of all that either you or someone else knows exactly what to do.

Sunday 16 March 2008

Troutin' Spin Interboron Rods

Combine these rods with the range of Panish freshwater lures as featured below and you have a beautiful balanced freshwater application - casting lures from 2gs - 10gs the Interboron offers a unique fishing experience a combination of quality and excitement.

Your Questions Answered

I am happy to hear you are considering a bass fishing holiday in the South East of Ireland with SEAi. On this page I hope to supply you with a quick overview of what to expect and what is needed for your holiday requirements on both fly and lure.

The Service

My international guiding season starts On June 16th and ends on October 31st. Please be aware that there is a closed season for bass fishing between May 16th and June 16th. Prior to this time there are some fish to be had, but experience has thought me that the fishing is simply too unpredictable to recommend that customers travel from International destinations to fish.

Guiding and fishing is carried out on optimal tides only and hence the guiding service has a very short and limited season. I do not guide from the shore on a Saturday or Sunday.

June: 1 week
July: 2 weeks
August : 2 weeks (one dedicated to single days)
September: 3 weeks (one week re-allocated to put back dates)
October: 2 weeks (provisional depending on weather)

Total weeks – 9 weeks - Service Details Here

The International guiding service operates on an optimal tidal weekly basis (Saturday to Saturday) or on a three day basis. Any single day guiding requests are allocated to a specific week – generally the first week in August only, also on an optimal tidal sequence.

I strongly encourage a C+R approach to our fishing, but I am not against the taking of an odd fish for eating.

The Influences

As I regularly encounter problems with weather and date allocations almost on a day by day basis I will advise single day customers 5 days in advance of expected conditions for their allocated date. Put back dates due to poor weather conditions for a single guided day will be allocated to a week in September.

The Atlantic Ocean plays the dominant part in our weather, insulating us from the temperature extremes that can be experienced in other European countries. Our position on the Northwest of Europe places us in the path of Atlantic low-pressure systems hence we are subject to a lot of cloudy overcast, humid and often very wet and windy days. This in turn impacts neagtively on our fishing. But don’t despair, its not all doom and gloom! The sunniest months of the year occur during late spring and early summer and the southeast of the country gets the most sunshine, often up to 6 or seven hours a day during early summer. Air temperatures reach between 18 and 20 degrees C during the summer and average around 8 degrees C during winter. We live in a temperate climate that is heavily influenced by the North Atlantic drift; in fact our seas are considerably warmer than average global temperatures at similar positions. Winter water temperatures along the coast fall to as low as 8 degrees but by August and September they are at their warmest and are as high as 15 degrees C. In fact during winter our seas are warmer than the air temperature while during summer the air temperature is warmer than the surrounding sea.

Please be aware because Ireland is subject to many weather influences during the fishing season these will have a significant impact on your fishing, particularly if you chose to fly fish. If you are not prepared to accept the inevitability of nature then maybe a more predictable and stable weather/fishing environment is for you.

Fly Fishing Equipment

Rod #8 or #9 (it is at times possible to fish lighter)
Line #8 or #9 - Floating Intermediate and sinking WF (T300 or similar) or a shooting head system
Reel - doesnt need to be an expensive model with 75 metres of 10kg backing is perfect

Leaders - Mono for surface work and fluorocarbon for sub - tapered length 3.3 metres (1.5 metres of 17ks, 1 metre of 12kgs, .5 metre of 8/7 kgs) or similar

Stripping basket or line tray
Chest Waders and wading belt
Wading boots with FELT or FELT and STUD combination (heel)
Wading staff
Layering system and waterproof jacket
Sunfactor and hat
Polaroid Glasses

I will NOT guide any person who does not have the correct footwear

Flies - deceivers - flatwings - hollow fleyes - clousers and some poppers or gurglers length from 8 cms up to 24 cms


Becaue the nature of the fishing is tidal our day will be structured aroud the rise and fall of the tides. It is also interesting to note that different types of locations fish differrently at different states of the tide - some on falling some on rising etc.

I generally try and fish on a multiplicity of location types - estuarine, rocky shore, sandy shore, and in current. The secret to the fishing is having confidence in believing that the fish are there and you fish accordingly (you generally dont see them)- always staying on the move and adapting to the changing environment in some locations whilst remaining fixed in others.

Please be aware that some of the locations involve walking into estuaries, along rocky shores and through the coastal environment which can be very enjoyable but at the same time physically demanding. Some days may be windy, wet and cold so at times the overall sense of the fishing is indeed very challenging
A degree of confidence is neccessary for some of the rock fishing - I will always be on hand to help and encourage of course!

A typical day for your week would look something like this

Morning Fishing Cycle -

Light snack to start your day (coffee snack at house or B+B)
Guided Fishing 04:00 to 08:00 (or similar)
Return to house or B+B at 09:00

Rest period -

Evening Fishing Cycle -

Guided Fishing 16:00 to 20:00 (or similar)
Refreshments included - water/fruit/cake - tea/coffee
Return to house or B+B at 21:00

We do not have to stick to a very early morning schedule every day - but I would like to take advantage of situations as the weather and the tides develop during your week. Any changes regarding schedule times are of course discussed with your group before any decisions are made.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Exciting Seabass Games - ESG

Team the lucky Craft ESG 8'-7" with a daiwa Certate 3000 and you have the ultimate saltwater sportfishing combination - perfectly balanced for modern lure fishing techniques - especially Irish Sea trout and bass.

See the rod HERE

Are you ready for Spring Summer ?

Sunday 9 March 2008

Fishing Report - Seatrout on the fly from the sea

Its getting close to that time of year again where I look forward to seatrout fishing in the sea. Beware - it can become an obsession!

Thursday 6 March 2008

predator and saltwater flies from Rod Tye

Rod Tye based in Co.Mayo ties wonderful saltwater and freshwater predator flies in modern materials. All the pike i caught in February were taken on Rods flies. I look forward to taking many more fish on these and more superb flies.
We will be collaborating to build a series of bass fishing flies later this Spring.

saltwater fly fishing in estuaries

The magic, mystery and wide variety of life that often surrounds an estuary make them very special places to fish. These are the places where the sea sneaks slowly into the heart of our landscape twice a day, steals the rich deposits that lie there and runs away with them. Creeping over shingle banks, bubbling along sandy shores and sliding around corners onto mudflats, the tide fills and empties the estuary with its life giving nutrients. Protected from the full force of the open ocean estuaries provide a sanctuary for vast communities of plant and animal life and within the estuary you will find ‘micro worlds’ of shallow open waters, marshes, sandy beaches, rocky outcrops, mud and sand flats. All are protected from the full force of wind and wave by the nurturing arms of the estuary. These are places of transition where the land meets the sea in an intimate exchange of daily natural life.

The estuary fosters an abundance of habitats that support marine mammals, seabirds, fish, crab, clams, worms, cockles and mussels. These animals are linked together and to an assortment of plants and microscopic organisms that form a complex food chain that is influenced by many factors. As the tide ebbs and flows over sandbars and mudflats, complex currents and slacks are created temporarily and then disappear or re-appear at different locations within the estuary. Fish follow and hunt the food using the tide and currents everyday. Fish are keyed into feeding opportunities that the fly fisher must learn to recognise. These are wonderful places where rivers meet the sea and the sea meets the land in a constantly changing environment. They provide without doubt some of the best opportunities and challenges for the saltwater fly fisherman.

The water that flows into and out of the estuary is constantly changing. Because of the constant tidal flows that influence the amount of mixing between fresh water and seawater, things change on a day-to-day basis. Weather patterns like wind and rain further influence the temperature and salinity of estuarine waters not only during the different seasons of the year but also every day. Thus, daily tidal flows combined with changing weather patterns are responsible for fluctuations in water conditions in an estuary. This has a significant impact on the abundance and feeding patterns of fish. The fly fisher needs to get intimate with these influences before he has any degree of success in the estuary.

Fish that live in and around estuarine areas are very interesting because they exhibit a number of patterns that are influenced by changes in daily, weekly and monthly tidal fluctuations and indeed these fish are affected by degrees of salinity, water temperature, current and tidal heights. For example, the daily rise and fall of tides creates flows which help to carry and distribute various food items that fish need. This food gets distributed into and out off estuaries in greater or lesser quantities depending on the state of the tide. Food items in tidal estuarine areas include shrimp, crabs, small fish such as immature mullet, flounders, as well as many types of worms that crawl or burrow on the rich, muddy bottoms of the estuary.

For this reason the saltwater fly fisher should take advantage of tides by fishing when tides are high or just beginning to fall, when creatures that live near the shoreline are more active and fish are attracted by the availability of more food. Certainly, one of the key factors in successfully fishing an estuary is an understanding of the local tide and tidal current. One general rule, however, and I have found it almost always to be true, is that during a falling or ebbing tide the fishing will be better on or near the outside of an estuary. Similarly, the inside of an estuary is usually better with an incoming or flooding tide. This is simply due to where the bait is being carried and ‘condensed’ and how predators are also using the natural ‘transport’ systems provided by tides. The tides and tidal currents are complex phenomena influenced by many things, including the sun and the moon. By consulting tidal heights and tidal current charts the fly fisher can be well armed regarding this important information. Each estuary has its own particular rhythm and a fly fisherman with knowledge of how a local estuary works will increase his or her chances of success.

Fish moving into and out off and sometimes through an estuary, will often not complete the journey in one go. Along the way the fishing paths that they have travelled for weeks or months on their daily journey for food will have several important ‘stopping’ locations. These locations are linked to the type of activity the fish is engaged in; indeed the fish may be exhibiting one or more activity types while at these locations. Resting, hunting or simply shoaling.

Lets imagine we are driving along the west coast of some distant land. We have our fly fishing gear in the boot and we have a few days off work. We have no real plans other than to drive and fish. As we descend into a green valley and look out over some fields, a vast expanse of mud and sand flat, reflecting silver and gold in the summer sun, reveals itself to us. Naked and vulnerable we see an estuary undressed. We stop the car at the side of the road and take advantage of our elevated viewing position. At the narrow mouth in the distance the silent turmoil of pure white surf tells us the water is clear. We note the channels, the water that has stayed in the estuary and where it lies. The corners and bends and indeed some small rocky outcrops where we know rising tides will flow around in the next few hours. We drive to the closest access point we can find gear up and position ourselves midway along the shore of the estuary.

During summer months some fish like bass will choose not to leave the estuary when the tide is exiting. Instead sometimes they will ‘lie up’ within the remaining water that stays in the estuary when the tide is out. These fish are often lying in deeper pools created where current has created ‘waves’ of sand. They may often lie along edges of bends where water is deeper and drop-offs exist. They are resting and maybe digesting and are very shy. One of the most exciting ways to catch these fish is with surface poppers. Now its often not easy to cast a bass popper with a long leader as turnover can be an issue. I would recommend that you try and fish one that is the longest you can. Lining these fish is an issue as they will either simply swim off or refuse to take. Polaroid glasses are always highly recommended.

Watch as to where your shadow falls particularly late in the evening or early morning. The pools where these fish lie are often recognised by having a darker colour than the surrounding areas of water – this usually indicates depth. After much trial and error you will begin to recognise which type of pool holds fish. Try and place the end of your fly line at the edge of the pool whilst your leader unfurls across it or better still along the edge of it– easy! Wait and then pop and retrieve and repeat. There is nothing more exciting than watching the powerful shoulders of a bass create a bow wave in very shallow water, swimming faster now, towards your fly, hoping the next impact will be your popper – boom! All hell breaks loose.

You can spend some time stalking along the estuary after these fish. You probably will have noticed the clarity of water, which is always good. Mullet can also be tackled at this very early stage of tide. As the tide begins to push into the estuary and further up your legs past your knees you will usually notice deterioration in the clarity of water. There is a lot of suspended particles and the water may be feel warmer and have a slight green or yellow colour. Apart from the tidal and current influences within the estuary the fly fisherman should pay particular attention to this water clarity phenomenon.

During a typical summer this ‘unclear water’ moves in and out within an estuary on a daily basis under tidal and wind influences. During periods of very settled weather the amount of ‘unclear water’ can be very small – and as the tide pushes past the angler it may only take one hour or less for the water to become clear again. This of course depends on the location that the angler is fishing within the estuary. During this time fishing often becomes very slack and there is little or no activity. Then, if the angler has remained in the one spot, after some time the water will run clear again, the temperature will drop a little and usually the fish will follow very quickly. The incoming tide then usually remains clear until full tide.

This ‘unclear water’ is subject to many variables, which affect its size, density and temperature, and hence the time it takes for the estuary to push clear. A few days of heavy rain before your fishing will increase this turbidity or a few days of onshore winds will also increase it. The lethal combination of heavy rain and strong onshore winds will often stop fish that would normally enter the estuary from feeding therein. And even as the weather improves their expected feeding patterns will have changed as they hunt closer to the bottom. Sinking and intermediate lines are often the order of the day.

The type of turbidity also affects the timing of the estuary running clear which has a big impact on your bass fly-fishing. Onshore winds will throw particles into the water that are larger than say particles washed into the sea from a mud flat or rain fall. As a consequence clarity returns quicker to the estuary from an on shore wind than from heavy rain, generally of course. This phenomena was particular evident this year as the estuaries remained cold and grey and often brown well into the month of July. Excessive rainfall and cooling breezes affected many fisheries all over Ireland and indeed North Western Europe this summer.

So now the water is pushing well over our knees, we can feel the tidal flow build and the water has run clear. By remaining in the one location we can catch bass and sea trout as they pass us by on their way into the estuary. Maybe we have local knowledge and information regarding a holding spot has been given to us. Bass will hold up for short periods behind sandbars or rocks or other obstructions. They wait to ambush their passing food items. As the tide pushes into the estuary it becomes more difficult for them to hold these stations so they simply slip away and move further up with the rising tide taking up another station. Again and again the process is repeated both on the rise and the fall of the tide.

The technical issues of saltwater fly-fishing in an estuary remain of course as another challenge to the fly fisher. Type of line and presentation are very important, and these can be more important to some species than others. Shy fish like mullet and seatrout are often spooky and more difficult to catch whilst bass remain more aggressive and active. Tactics and techniques vary widely as does equipment and it is probably beyond the range of this article to venture down that road. The important aspects from a saltwater fly fishing point of view is for the angler to develop an instinct or feeling for the many and interesting influences within our estuaries that ultimately will influence his fishing success.

Our own influences are also apparent within estuaries. Pollution from failing septic tanks, poor sewage treatment plants or under resourced facilities, storm water runoff from empty ‘holiday ghost towns’, industrial organic waste discharge, and contaminated runoff from farms using fertilizers or yards with animals can impact on our vulnerable estuarine systems. Estuaries also face loss of habitat due to our obsession with development in delicately balanced areas of natural beauty. Damage is caused by the continued and often-illegal overuse and plundering of estuarine resources. These have resulted in a continued reduction of even protected fisheries like bass, loss of habitat and wildlife, and the destruction of wonderful landscape.

We all have a part to play to protect and maintain our valuable estuaries.

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Forwarded to - The Irish Bass Policy Group (David McInerny, John Quinlan, Shane O Reilly, Mike Hennessy, Dr William Roche, Dr Nial O'Ma...